OP2959. Cendrillon (Pauline Viardot). Sandrine Piau, Paul Austin Kelly, Elizabeth Vidal, André Cognet, Jean-Luc Viala, etc.; Nicholas Kok (Pianist). Opera Rara ORC 212. Includes Elaborate 98pp. Libretto-Book. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 712938021225
“I’m going to try very hard not to write the words ‘enchanting bauble’, and I’m obviously going to fail. That’s just what this ravishing chamber work is–feather-light, innocently composed (although even the least keen ear will find likenesses to any number of other composers), and a perfect evening’s salon entertainment, if your salon tends to be peopled by the likes of Chopin, Delacroix, Tchaikovsky, Dickens, and almost everyone else of any literary or musical importance of the 19th century. The composer, Pauline Viardot, was the daughter of teacher and tenor Manuel Garcia (he created the role of Almaviva in Rossini’s BARBIERE), and the younger sister of the legendary Maria Malibran. Pauline was supposed to be a pianist (she studied with Liszt), but once her mother heard her sing, she told her to close the piano–it was as a singer that she would make her name.
When sister Maria died suddenly in a riding accident, it was up to the less pretty, possibly less talented Pauline to step into her shoes, which she did with success. The voice was probably a mezzo-soprano that she could twist upward or downward and color in many ways; yes, a Callas-predecessor, one might say. She sang the operas of Gluck, created Fides in LE PROPHÈTE, and her voice began to deteriorate. She retired from the stage in 1863 and taught and composed; CENDRILLON’s premiere took place in 1904 at the salon of a Mlle de Nogueiras but probably was composed a few years earlier. Viardot died in 1910 at 90 years of age.
To try to describe this piano-accompanied music would be futile; suffice it to say that melodies abound, vocal lines soar and plead, and the Cinderella tale is told with a smile (Cinderella’s father is here found out to be an ex-grocer!). This performance is beautiful: Sandrine Piau in the title role is youthful and touching; Elizabeith Vidal’s high-flying Fairy Godmother is a gem of an interpretation; the father and sisters are wicked without becoming either cartoons or criminals; and Jean-Luc Viala’s Prince is only outsung by Paul Austin Kelly’s Count Barigoule, who is, in fact, the Prince’s valet. The piano playing and conducting by Nicholas Kok is exactly right. Okay, this is a “captivating trinket”.
- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com